St. Nicholas Day on December 6 celebrates of course carries some connection to Christmas and Santa Clause, but there is much more to this holiday and St. Nicholas than that. Although St. Nicholas partially inspired the Christmas and Santa Clause that we all know and love, St. Nicholas actually derives from a different kind of tale. Let’s learn about St. Nicholas and what this day is truly about.
History of St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas derived from Nicholas of Myra and was a bishop in 4th century Greece. He was known for selling off his own items and then giving the money to the poor. He would commonly leave coins in people’s shoes and dedicated his entire life to serving people who were sick and suffering. This is how he gained his saint status, and is what inspired St. Nicholas Day (also commonly known as Feast Day or the Feast of St. Nicholas).
One well-known story of St. Nicholas involves a dowry for a father’s three daughters. In the third century, it was common for fathers to offer money to prospective husbands. However, one poor father with three daughters did not have money to do this. St. Nicholas paid for all three daughters’ dowries by leaving gold in their shoes.
As time passed St. Nicholas Day began in different ways. In Italy, this day was celebrated with feasts, gift-giving, and festivals. In other European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, children would leave their shoes or special St. Nicholas boot in front of the fireplace or front door at night and find presents in them in the morning. The history of St. Nicholas and his good deeds was part of the inspiration of the modern-day Santa Claus and Father Christmas, which is why there are some current traditions of leaving gifts in people’s boots or shoes (or stockings).
St. Nicholas Day timeline
French nuns begin giving candy to children on December 6
They started giving candy and gifts to needy children on Feast Day.
St. Nicholas’ bones are moved
Italian sailors took his bones to Bari, Italy.
- 343 AD
St. Nicholas dies
He was 73 years old and buried in Myra.
- 270 AD
St. Nicholas is born
Although he was not considered a saint at birth.
St. Nicholas Day FAQs
Who is St. Nicholas the patron saint of?
He is considered the patron saint of sailors, children, merchants, thieves, and pawnbrokers.
When did St. Nicholas die?
He died on December 6, 343 AD at 73 years old.
Why do we celebrate St. Nicholas day?
St Nicholas Day on December 6 recognizes the third-century patron saint and the generosity he showed to those around him. He left such a lasting impact that over time his character inspired Santa Clause.
How to celebrate
Have a feast!
St. Nicholas day is also commonly known as the Feast of St. Nicholas, and it’s widely celebrated in Europe. To celebrate December 6, have a feast with your family and friends. There’s nothing wrong with splurging on some food for a day.
Help someone in need
Just like St. Nicholas was known to do, a great way to celebrate this day is to follow in his footsteps and help someone in need. Donate to an organization helping others, give money to someone in need, or help a friend or family member.
Decorate your own stocking or special St. Nicholas boot.
This would make for a great decoration around St. Nicholas Day. Buy a pair of cheap boots or DIY an old pair and turn them into a unique decoration to sit in front of your fireplace for St. Nicholas Day.
5 Facts About St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas was buried in a tomb in Myra
Water formed that’s believed to have healing powers, called the Manna of Saint Nicholas.
He was born of Greek descent
He grew up in the village of Patara, outside of Myra.
Nicholas means “people’s victory”
This is the Greek meaning of the name.
He was one of the youngest bishops
He became Bishop at just 30 years old.
He was imprisoned by the Roman Emperor for seven years
He was eventually freed by Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor.
Why we love
It’s another excuse to eat food
Who doesn’t love a reason to gather with loved ones and enjoy a large meal? St. Nicholas Day is widely celebrated this way, so start a new tradition with your family by enjoying a feast on December 6.
It brings out the best of people
With a day about a historical figure that helped those in need, it’s hard not to want to do something nice yourself. St. Nicholas Day reminds people about helping others as that’s what St. Nicholas did his entire life.
The tradition is different everywhere
Something that’s unique about St. Nicholas Day is that everywhere celebrates it differently. Italy celebrates with a feast and other European countries celebrate with gifts hidden in shoes. Everywhere has its own traditions on St. Nicholas Day and that makes it interesting.
St. Nicholas Day dates